Ruger Four-Inch .45 Colt Redhawk Revolver


by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn & Boge Quinn

December 23rd, 2007




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About eleven months ago, Ruger introduced what was to become my favorite Redhawk of all time, the four-inch .44 Magnum. Previous Redhawks had longer barrels and a wooden grip that never even came close to fitting my hand. Preferring single action revolvers, I had never had much to do with the Redhawk. However, when Ruger chopped that barrel back to four inches at fitted that synthetic rubber Hogue grip, they had finally made a Redhawk that I really liked. Most shooters seemed to agree. I got a lot of feedback on that Redhawk review. However, many shooters bemoaned the fact that it was only offered in .44 magnum, stating: "I wish Ruger would make that gun in .45 Colt! If they did, I would definitely buy one!" Well boys, hereís your chance! The four inch Redhawk is now available chambered for the .45 Colt cartridge! It was worth the wait.

Why the big fuss over a .45 Colt when everybody who has ever watched a Dirty Harry movie knows that the .44 magnum is "the most powerful handgun in the world"? Well, that was Hollywood talking. There were more powerful handguns at that time, just as there are now. Comparing the .44 Magnum to most revolvers chambered for the .45 Colt leaves one still wondering why would anyone want the .45 Colt. The difference is that the .45 Colt, as loaded for Rugerís large, sturdy revolvers, can outperform the .44 magnum, pushing heavier, fatter bullets to comparable velocities at lower pressure.  Keep in mind that the .45 Colt cartridge loaded heavy is not intended for weaker revolvers, but for Ruger and Freedom Arms Model 83 revolvers only, and this does not include the new, smaller Ruger Vaquero revolvers. Some say that they can take the heavy loads, but they are definitely not as robust as the Blackhawk and Redhawk revolvers. It is best to use the New Vaquero with moderate, but not extreme, factory or handloaded ammunition. If in doubt, always ask the ammunition maker if his ammo is intended for your particular gun. That bears repeating: If in doubt, always ask the ammunition maker if his ammo is intended for your particular gun. Also, the loads listed in handloading manuals for "Ruger Only", means just that. In our review here, we will be dealing with the high performance Heavy .45 Colt ammunition that is intended for these robust Ruger revolvers only. So called "Cowboy Loads", though they will work just fine in this big Redhawk, do not fully utilize the advantage that the .45 Colt offers in such a revolver as this.  The Redhawk is beefy. Overbuilt is another good adjective that fits this revolver. While still plenty compact to carry in a good holster, the Redhawk is super-strong in the areas that really matter; the frame, cylinder, and forcing cone area of the barrel. This Ruger is built to last. It can handle any commercially loaded .45 Colt ammunition, and can safely utilize any reputable heavy .45 Colt published load data. The Redhawk is the strongest .45 Colt double action handgun made. It holds six shots of heavy .45 Colt power, and properly loaded, can take any game that walks the Earth.  Bear protection guns are probably sold to more folks than actually need them, but if you do work, play, hunt, or fish in an area where big bears might be a problem, the four-inch Redhawk is a perfect trail companion. It is compact enough and light enough to carry well in a good belt holster, and packs plenty of punch for the biggest bruins alive. For the rest of us, the .45 Redhawk is also a dandy primary hunting gun for deer and hogs. I have fired .45 Colt Cor-Bon 300 grain jacketed loads into wild Russian boar, right through the cheat gristle plate area, and they just poked clean through and kept going. A big, heavy, .45 Colt slug pushed to reasonably high velocities will punch through most anything that walks.

The four inch Redhawk is constructed primarily of stainless steel. The sights are black, as they should be, consisting of a fully adjustable rear and a red-ramp front. The trigger is smooth for fast double-action work, and the hammer spur is checkered for a positive grip for cocking the Redhawk for single action fire. The cylinder release pushes in for a natural and easy release of the cylinder to swing out for loading. The big cylinder holds six cartridges, and the bolt notches are offset from over the chambers for added strength. The ejector stroke is plenty long to fully eject the empty brass cases, and no sticky extraction was experienced using even the heaviest of .45 Colt ammunition available. The double action trigger pull is very smooth on this Redhawk, and measured eight pounds, eleven ounces. The single action pull measured just over five and one-half pounds. The .45 Colt four inch Redhawk weighs in at 45.2 ounces unloaded.  The barrel/cylinder gap measures five one-thousandths of an inch (.005 ) on this revolver. The chamber throats measured a consistent .4515 inch. The overall quality is very good, and I have noticed an improvement in that area on all Ruger revolvers that I have seen lately. As mentioned earlier, I really like the feel of the Hogue rubber grips on this Redhawk. They handle heavy recoil comfortably, and protect the knuckle from slamming into the trigger guard upon firing the sixgun. I like this grip. I wonít go into every detail of the new four-inch .45 Redhawk here, as it is exactly like the .44 Magnum version reviewed earlier, except for the chambering, and I refer the reader to that review for more information on the details of the sixgun.

I fired a variety of  heavy .45 Colt loads for both velocity readings and accuracy. The velocities were taken on a calm, balmy early winter day, with the temperature hovering around sixty degrees Fahrenheit. The velocities listed below are in feet-per-second (fps). JHP is jacketed hollowpoint. JSP is jacketed soft point. LBT is a hard cast flat nosed lead bullet built for deep penetration. I also fired the Redhawk for accuracy at twenty-five yards from a Ransom Master Rest, and the group sizes are for five shots, and are listed in inches.

Cor-Bon JHP 265 1324.3 2.06"
Cor-Bon JSP 300 1159.4 1.75"
Cor-Bon LBT 335 971.5 3.75"
Buffalo Bore  JHP 260 1366.9 3.06"
Buffalo Bore  LBT 325 1239.4 3.00"
Handload Keith 285 875.5 1.25"

I was well-pleased with the respectable velocities achieved from the four inch Redhawk, as well as with the accuracy of the revolver with some of the ammo tested.  As with the earlier .44 Magnum Redhawk, I carried this sixgun in one of Rob Leahyís Simply Rugged Pancake holsters. This holster is a very versatile rig, allowing strong side or crossdraw carry as the situation warrants, is beautiful, and offers good protection to the sixgun. Simply Rugged holsters display fine craftsmanship, and they are very reasonably priced. Every Simply Rugged holster is handmade in Alaska, and delivered in a timely fashion. I use them often, and recommend them almost every day.

I am not, I guess, what one would call a double-action revolver fan. I like them just fine, and use them, but not as often as I do my single action sixguns. I also find that I am warming up to the concept of double-action fire, but usually find myself carrying a single action revolver instead. I have for many years recommended the standard blued finish four and five-eighths inch .45 Blackhawk to those needing a rugged, reliable, and affordable handgun for protection and hunting in bear country. However, the double action design of the Redhawk does offer a few advantages. I have nothing even close to the talent of Jerry Miculek when it comes to firing a double-action revolver, but I figure that he cannot be human and wiggle his finger as fast as he does. However, even an average shooter like myself can put a lot of fire into a target  with a good double-action if needed. Iíve never been targeted by an angry bear, but have been charged by a wild boar and tossed around like a rag doll by a big Angus bull. Neither was pleasant. The boar was dispatched by a couple of big .45 slugs from a Ruger Blackhawk. That same Blackhawk cleared leather and was about to pop that bull when he decided to turn and leave. That old Blackhawk has served me well, and is a strong, durable sixgun. However, this Redhawk is stronger, and I can fire off more shots quicker. If ever faced by a charging bear, or another wild boar, or another ornery bull, I would be perfectly content to have this Redhawk on my hip. For hunting whitetail deer, I like a good hollowpoint .45 of about 250 grains weight. Given the choice, I greatly prefer the .45 Colt to the .44 Magnum. So do many other knowledgeable shooters. This is the sixgun that shooters have been hollering for. Like all Ruger firearms, it offers a lot of gun for the money. It is strong, rugged, reliable, American made, and backed by Rugerís famous customer service. I highly recommend it.

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Jeff Quinn

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Simply Rugged Pancake holster is practical, rugged, beautiful, and affordable - what more can you ask?







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Click pictures for a larger version.


Ruger's new 4" Redhawk in .45 Colt.



The Redhawk's cylinder is plenty long enough to accommodate Buffalo Bore's 325-grain cast bullet load, with room to spare.



Hogue one-piece rubber finger-groove grips are a great improvement over earlier Redhawk grip styles.



One-piece Hogue grips are removable using the supplied wedge tool.



Sights are excellent, consisting of pinned-in interchangeable red-insert front and fully-adjustable rear.



Crane locks into frame at front, offering a rigid and rugged lockup.



Ruger's cylinder latch is easy and natural to operate.



Size comparison: 4" Redhawk .45 (top), J-frame Smith & Wesson Model 342PD pocket revolver (bottom).



The Redhawk is very beefy, overbuilt to handle high-pressure loads for a lifetime of trouble-free service.



Jeff tried the .45 Redhawk with some of his favorite heavy factory loads.



The .45 Redhawk can shoot!



Even filthy, the Redhawk keeps on going.